Joshua Levy (graduate student in PBS) will be presenting Category Learning of Musical Chords in the Cognitive Brown Bag series in Tobin 521B at noon Wednesday, April 1. Everyone is welcome – the abstract is below.
Abstract: Musical chords can vary with respect to several music-theoretic attributes, such as root, quality, and inversion. In ear training classes, musicians are expected to learn to identify these attributes of a chord upon as little as a single presentation. We present data from a supervised category learning task (Shepard et al., 1961) examining the rate of learning of these attributes. In the task, subjects are asked to induce a rule that groups eight chords into two categories. While some subjects learn a simple music-theoretic rule (e.g. root position vs. first inversion), other subjects learn a complex music-atheoretic rule (e.g. major root position or minor first inversion vs. minor root position or major first inversion). The results show unequal learning rates of each attribute when learning music-theoretic rules. Morever, learning rates are in some cases even higher when learning music-atheoretic rules that partition the eight chords according to the average frequency of the three notes in a chord. Average frequency is a perceptually salient attribute that subjects rely upon when first learning to categorize chords.